Case Studies

Posted: 15 September 2020

Freeing public domain information

  • Programme:

    Advancing open access

  • Focus area:

    Intellectual property rights

  • Grantee:

    Public.Resource.Org

  • Project:

    Core costs

  • Grants awarded:

    $7,000,000

  • Years:

    2014-2025

Public.Resource.Org (PRO) is dedicated to publishing and sharing public domain materials that legally and morally should be free. This includes laws, safety standards and other official documents and records that directly affect people’s lives but are locked behind paywalls.

PRO argues that the public owns the rights to these materials. It identifies such collections, buys the material and publishes it online so that people can access it for free. At the same time, it calls on the holder of the information to collaborate to make it freely available.

For example, Public.Resource.Org recently won its case against the State of Georgia, establishing that the State’s law and its annotations cannot be put behind a paywall. The state sued for copyright infringement after Public.Resource.Org put the entire state code online, claiming that although the laws themselves were public, the annotations were under copyright. The court ruled in Public.Resource.Org’s favour, stating that the annotations were crucial to interpreting the law and that an interested citizen would not be able to learn the full extent of his legal rights without paying the significant fee to read the annotated code.

Codes and standards are ready for dispatching at the Public.Resource.Org offices. Courtesy of Public.Resource.Org.
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